Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part II, act IV, sc. 2.

The thoroughness of any social revolution might be measured by the degree to which the revolutionaries follow Dick the butcher's advice. Lawyers are often considered one of the principal bulwarks of the established order, perhaps its best unarmed defenders. A revolution, the transfer of political power from one social class to another, usually involves the liquidation of the lawyers as Well as the criminal and civil codes which are their tools.

The anomalous survival of the Russian bar after the Bolshevik revolution is not attributable to the charitable disposition of the communists toward lawyers. Lenin held the profession of which he had briefly been a member in particularly low regard, castigating defense counsel as "intellectual scum." The legal profession survived the revolution because at its outset lawyers were not sufficiently important to engage the attention of Soviet leaders. A tradition of legal representation had not become well established in Russia and the bar was unimportant in size and influence in 1917. Integration of the bar into the power structure of the Communist Party was less urgent than the management of physicians, engineers and writers, to say nothing of industrial workers and peasants. Once socialism had ceased to be revolutionary and itself became the established order in the 1930s, the legal system replaced terror as an instrument of social control. Attorneys then became agents of the established power structure rather than its antagonists.

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